“Scoob!” comes up short

Pete Tubbs

     The world is changing. For the past couple of months, humankind has been witness to one of the most tumultuous times in recent memory.

     Countless businesses have been hurt and even forced to shut down. People everywhere have scrambled to find ways to persevere in a flood of uncertainty.

     One of the businesses that has been through significant change as of late is the film industry. From cancelled movies to pushed back production schedules, millions upon millions of dollars have been lost by these gargantuan studios. 

     Perhaps the hardest hit to the industry, however, was the closure of movie theaters. Films that studios spent hundreds of millions of dollars on and planned to hopefully recoup on are just sitting idly on their proverbial shelves.

     In a changing world, though, some studios found a way to change with it. Films that were in theaters at the time of their closure such as “The Hunt,” and “The Invisible Man” were released on Video on Demand weeks after their theatrical debut. For major studio releases, this short time span was virtually unheard of.

     This tactic has become more and more enticing to studios that are suffering from a lack of income, so many of them have decided to forego theatrical releases instead opting for immediate home releases. The most recent example of this is Warner Brother’s big budget animated film “Scoob!.”

     The star studded revival of the titular animal and his gang of mystery solving friends was released last Friday with a rental price tag of $19.99 and an option to purchase for $24.99. Celebrity voices for this third theatrical “Scooby-Doofilm include Will Forte, Zac Efron, Jason Isaacs, Ken Jeong, Mark Wahlberg, Amanda Seyfried, and Frank Welker.

     The kid-friendly film starts off on firm footing. The first ten minutes or so covers how Scooby and Shaggy met, and despite its zany tone, this segment is actually quite touching.

     From there, it leads into the rest of the gang forming and solving their first mystery. Of course, in classic “Scooby-Doo” style, it’s in an old haunted house. Unfortunately, that’s where “classic Scooby-Doo style” stops.

     It may have been a good idea for the studio to create an entire origin story film featuring the gang as kids. It works surprisingly well in this iteration. In fact, it works so well that the rest of the film never catches up to its spirited beginning. 

     The filmmakers seem to have forgotten what made the cartoon and its characters so compelling in the first place. The “Scooby-Doo” gang has been around for decades now because of how reliable its formula is.

     Each character has their own specific personality, and those personalities blend fantastically with one another. It’s always a joy watching the five team members solve mysteries. 

     “Scoob!” has virtually none of that. After the prologue ends, Scooby and Shaggy are immediately separated from the rest of Mystery Inc., and are sucked up into Blue Falcon’s ship. Yes, there are superheroes in this.

     From then on, “Scoob!” follows two groups: Daphne, Velma, Fred and Blue Falcon, Dynomutt, Dee Dee, Shaggy, Scooby. Each of the groups do eventually meet up for the last act, but so much of the middle of the film is spent with them trying to solve the main mystery apart that it turns into something akin to a Hannah-Barbara free for all that is just seeking to fit as many of that properties’ characters into one movie as possible.

     Aside from the messy plot, which involves Dick Dastardly trying to open a portal to Hell (really), the voice cast is mostly fine. In fact, when it comes to the performances, I only have one complaint.

     Will Forte was one of the brightest spots of Saturday Night Live during his tenure. He’s long since been a solid and consistent actor and creator with successes like “MacGruber,” “Last Man on Earth,” and “Nebraska” coloring his list of works.

     That being said, he was woefully miscast as Shaggy Rogers. Matthew Lillard has been voicing this character for over a decade, and why anyone thought to replace him is beyond me. 

     To take someone away from the franchise that’s been involved in it for eighteen years is reprehensible. I understand the want for a big cast, but there comes a point where one just has to use their mind a little bit to see that this was a mistake from the beginning.

     Forte has the chops, certainly, but here he just doesn’t sound like Shaggy. There are notes of the high pitched anxiety here, but that trademark zing that people like Lillard and Casey Kasem were able to bring to the character is sorely lacking.

     WB clearly think they have something special on their hands, and they’re not wrong. It wouldn’t be an unwise decision to map out a cinematic universe for all of these characters to play in. For that to be successful, though, they’d have to be careful and precise with it. 

     As it stands, “Scoob!” is like what the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have been if the first film it made was “Avengers” instead of “Iron Man.” This movie is all introduction and no sincere interaction.

     The kids will probably be entertained by this. It’s wild, colorful, and slightly spooky. For fans of the Scooby gang, though, this is no more than a disappointment. 

     For a price tag of $20-$25, stay at home and watch some of the classic shows. Heck, “Scooby Doo! Mystery Incorporated” is on Netflix now and it has more heart in one episode than “Scoob!” does in its entire runtime.